Rare Book School offers summer fellowship program
Fellows take book history classes in preparation for an independent study
As University students leave Grounds for internships, vacations and summer jobs, students who are part of the Rare Book School’s Fellowship Program will head into 30-hour weeks of class time to prepare for an academic project they will complete in the upcoming school year.
The Fellowship Program began in 2011 with a grant from the Jefferson Trust, now extending seven fellowship offers to students who will partake in summer courses located at the University, in New Haven, Connecticut and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“It’s exciting that we have been able to generate the interest and increase the number of U.Va. students who are taking part in our courses,” Programs Director Amanda Nelsen said.
The program aims to integrate an understanding of book history and the physical object of the book with students’ individual research. The program allows students to apply course material to their respective projects, which they complete during the following school year.
“Understanding how a book was made can really inform your appreciation of the work,” said current fellow Stephanie Kingsley, a master’s candidate in the English department.
Participants in the program take classes five days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Class topics range from “XML in Action: Creating Text Encoding Initiative Text” to “The History of the Book in America c. 1700-1830.” Lectures and movie nights are held in the evenings to bring the fellows together.
“The classes are pretty intense,” Rare Book School spokesperson Jeremy Dibbell said. “It’s been compared to boot camp more than once.”
Though the courses often appeal primarily to English and history students, the Rare Book School seeks applicants from a variety of disciplines.
“We are very excited when we get students from a range of departments,” Nelsen said. “We don’t have a lot of numbers from these other departments, but we certainly have interests from [them] and it’s great when we can make a connection to a department that we don’t have a lot of dialogue with necessarily.”
Program instructors make great efforts to utilize the collections and resources of the Rare Book School in their courses.
“The idea is that we want to put you in as much close contact with the stuff as we can,” Dibbell said. “That’s how you learn.”
History doctoral candidate David Smith, one of the fellows, said he appreciates how connected the community within the program is.
“Often times, the academic world can feel hierarchical and you’re constantly deferential to somebody,” Smith said. “But the Rare Books School really turned it from a hierarchical relationship to a peer-to-peer relationship.”
The Rare Book School and the Fellowship Program support the long connection the University has with book history and bibliography, Assistant Curator Tess Goodman said.
“I think one other point that’s important to emphasize is … an egalitarian community that the RBS creates,” Goodman said. “People who love books generally like to share that love and they like to connect and it’s a wonderful, strong community that’s very interested in [sharing] knowledge.”